This topic is sure to get some people all fired up. After all it seems to be an age old argument between couples concerning who is wearing socks to bed, why, when, and the ability to handle cold feet at certain times of the year. No matter what side of the debate you fall under, wearing socks to bed actually has a basis in body temperature regulation, and you should consider some of the following facts before dismissing the idea of enveloping your feet in fuzzy sock warmth each evening.
Feet and Body Temperature Regulation
Because of how close your blood vessels are to your skin surface in your feet, and the relatively large amount of skin to surface ration available, they can play a pretty large role in your overall body temperature regulation.
When cold, your blood vessels contract, and blood flow slows down. If your feet are cold this response is sent to your brain to create both physical, and physiological body responses to conserve heat due to the slowing of blood flow. The opposite is true with warm feet. When feet are warmed, then your blood vessels dilate, or open up, increasing blood flow throughout the body.
What you are probably wondering is exactly how this affects your sleep quality, and why you may, or may not, find yourself reaching for your socks before bed.
Sleep and Body Temperatures
The optimal sleep room temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees. This can be a bit chilly to many people, but setting your room temps within this range helps your body prepare for bed. When you sleep your body cools, reduces blood pressure, slows respirations and heart rate, and allows for an increase of blood circulation and oxygen to flow throughout your body. This process is what supports body healing and rejuvenation for cellular regeneration and brain function.
BUT didn’t I just say that cold feet restricts blood vessels? The difference between the two is that your body doesn’t thermoregulate as much while you are sleeping than when you are awake. Therefore by keeping your feet warm as you fall asleep, (which doesn’t necessarily translate into heating your body) helps provide good blood flow, and allows your body to drift into sleep where it can reach a proper level of rest.
Vaso what? Vasodilation is the proper term for what I described above: the opening of blood vessels for increased blood flow throughout the body. This helps oxygen to flood your entire vascular system which helps with physical healing and cognitive function. This happens naturally while you sleep, but also can be jump started by warming your feet prior to hopping into bed.
Although this may not sound comforting during the warmer seasons (when you feet are probably already warm), applying this as the temperatures cool for the year produces many benefits you should consider.
Benefits of Wearing Socks
If you are proponent of wearing socks to bed, especially in the colder winter months, then you have reason to rejoice- because there is a healthy list of reasons why this is a good habit to get into.
1. Cold Feet Interrupts Sleep
As talked about above, cold feet reduces blood flow, which is the opposite of what your body needs to do for a proper night’s sleep. Therefore cold feet inhibit your body’s ability to fall into a more restful, rejuvenating sleep. Even if you love to put your feet outside the covers, especially in the summer, this is a response not to have cold feet, but regulate body surface temperatures.
2. May Help With Hot Flashes
Socks help dilate blood vessels, dilated blood vessels increase circulation, increased circulation allows for a lowering the central body temperature– which then translates into less incidences of night sweats (or nighttime hot flashes).
Hot flashes are caused by the changes in hormone levels your body experiences through perimenopause, the time frame leading up to menopause in aging women. Sleep is an important factor to help regulate hormone levels and to allow the body to better process the changes it is undergoing, but unfortunately is often interrupted by the symptoms caused by the change itself. Any small tip to help regulate body temperatures may allow for a more restful sleep.
3. Heal Dry, Cracked Feet
Socks help keep moisture next to your skin surface. If you suffer from dry, or cracked feet, moisturizing your feet each evening and placing socks over them will help heal your skin and improve skin texture. This can also help soften any callouses you have for easier removal.
Since many people suffer from foot issues at some point in their life due to everyday friction that occurs within their shoes, poorly fitted shoes, or even how your foot is formed- socks can help with any surface conditions that are caused for improved comfort.
4. Socks Regulate External Temperature
I mentioned above that your body cools as you sleep, but there is a difference between your core internal) body temperature and skin surface temperatures- and socks can help you find the perfect balance between the two for a deeper, more restful sleep. Naturally as your body cools you may become chilled, and wake up. By wearing socks you are helping your external skin temps stay more comfortable, and keep you in a state of rest, rather than waking to add another layer.
5. Improve your Sex Life
The emergence of this study was quite accidental but resulted in scientists discovering that people who wore socks to bed were 30% more likely to experience an orgasm. In hindsight this makes sense due to the increase of blood flow throughout the body that affects ALL the body’s organs. Orgasms are the result of increased blood flow to the sexual organs, of which is supported by the wearing of socks. Now who is going to try this study out tonight?
6. Sends Signals to the Brain for Sleep
Most importantly is the role your blood vessel dilation plays in your sleep cycle. As we sleep our body cycles through multiple stages that supports whole body function. Your memory, information processing, nervous system, immune system, muscle and other soft tissue healing and health, as well as cardiovascular health, blood sugar regulation, and metabolism are all part of an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
Adults should get, on average, 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, or feeling groggy, tired, and unfocused may be only the tip of the iceberg they experience as sleep debt adds up. It doesn’t take long before sleep debt can begin to negatively impact your lifestyle and health. Those who don’t get enough rest may find themselves faced with a higher incidence of diabetes, stroke, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Arguments Against Wearing Socks
Despite the very convincing reasons provided that you should have you putting aside your nighttime sock prejudices, there are a few, and I mean a few, arguments against wearing socks to bed.
No matter what you say, some people are going to feel like wearing socks is an indication of your hiding something- concerning your feet. This is especially true of new nocturnal partners., so [perhaps it’s best to leave off the socks until you are past the foot cuddling phase- or you convince them of the awesome benefits.
Sock wearing is definitely not for every season, and if you don’t have cold bare feet, then wearing socks doesn’t make much sense. You don’t want to FEEL hot because you are wearing socks- rather you want to be comfortable wearing socks. When your feet are sweating due to your foot coverings, it’s time to take them off until a cooler evening.
You really shouldn’t wear your sweaty, dirty, work socks you’ve had on all day to bed. Your skin still needs to breath, and holding bacteria and sweat against your skin can result in all sorts of uncomfortable issues. If you want to wear socks, do yourself a favor and put on a fresh pair before going to bed.
Hopefully you’ve been provided with some pretty compelling reasons to stop hassling anyone who chooses to sleep with socks on, or even to start doing so as well! Remember, despite the many benefits, they help regulate your surface temperature while you sleep, so if they are keeping you awake due to too much warmth, you aren’t actually reaping many benefits.
Socks help improve upon blood circulation and not only influence your body to rest properly, but can aide in a variety of other healthy functions as well. Bet you were unaware of what your habit was providing and what benefits you’ve been taking advantage of before now! We’d love to hear your reasons why socks have become part of your nighttime rituals in the comments below!